This is the third installment of my Bringing Home Baby series and I’ll be discussing common demand and attention seeking behaviors that your dog might currently do, and whether these behaviors will be safe or wanted once you have a newborn or toddler. When I do my pre-baby prep sessions, this is topic we talk about, because often, these behaviors are fine in an adult only household but once there is a newborn being held or sleeping, then those same behaviors may not be wanted or safe. If these behaviors have been well rehearsed and practiced for a long time, they may take a while to extinguish, so it’s best to get training started early. I usually recommend scheduling a pre-baby prep session as early in the pregnancy as possible so we have maximum time to proof behaviors, including separation training, obedience skills, desensitization work and to extinguish well rehearsed unwanted behaviors that we may need to get rid of before the baby’s arrival including behavior modification for things like resource guarding or stranger danger work.
Dogs do what works. Always. If a dog does something and that results in a reinforcement in some way for the dog, the dog will do that, or try to do it again. Think about countersurfing. If your dog jumps up on the counter and successful snags a bagel, jumping up on the counter was reinforced, so your dog will definitely try to look for snackies on the counter at another time. The only way to stop him from countersurfing is to ensure that if he does, he never is successful. That means keeping your counters clear of all food so he can never be successful again. If even one out of 50 times he is successful, he will keep checking for snacks.
So what does your dog to get your attention? Bark? Paw at you? Whine? Stare at you? Nudge your hand? Biting or nipping? Bring a toy and drop it? Scratch or dig at the furniture or floor? Is your dog destructive? Something else? Often these behaviors will happen around feeding times, play times or walking times but it’s important to begin to take note of when and how your dog seeks your attention and then think about will those behaviors be safe and desirable when your baby arrives? For instance, my BooBoo paws at us when she wants to be patted, and since we don’t have an infant, it’s fine and we reinforce this and think it’s adorable that she seeks out attention so we almost always pet her when she does it. But, if I were holding an infant, a dog pawing at me just wouldn’t be safe. Even accidentally, her pawing or her nails could injure an infant. So this is a behavior I would begin to put on extinction right away or training an alternate behavior, if I were expecting a baby. To learn more about this and other important pre-baby prep skills and training that you might consider working on now, schedule your one-on-one pre-baby prep session today! During this session we review management, enrichment, training, homecoming plans, reducing attention seeking behaviors and you’re provided with lots of handouts with important information on making this transition safe and happy for everyone in the family and give you an opportunity to ask questions relevant to your specific situation. Schedule your session today!
And a reminder that I’ll be doing a free Facebook Live Q&A on dogs and babies with a special guest, on Wednesday March 24 at 8PM ET. Submit questions ahead of time to get your questions answered!